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Faculty of Agriculture researcher partners in the fight against COVID‑19

Posted by stephanie rogers on June 2, 2020 in News
Dr. Bruce Rathgeber, Atlantic Poultry Research Institute, Faculty of Agriculture
Dr. Bruce Rathgeber, Atlantic Poultry Research Institute, Faculty of Agriculture

The Atlantic Poultry Research Centre on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus has partnered with AffinityImmuno Inc, in Prince Edward Island, one of the first laboratories to manufacture antibodies against COVID-19.

 Following successful production of antibodies in chickens to COVID- 19 spike proteins, a partner was needed who had the capacity to increase the number of chickens involved in the process in order to scale-up production.  This is where the Faculty of Agriculture stepped in.

“The initial goal was to involve 100 hens for this research,” explained Associate Professor Poultry, Dr. Bruce Rathgeber.  “A high demand for COVID-19 spike protein has left us short.  We currently have 51 birds injected and are still planning to have a group of 49 to bring it up to 100 once more protein becomes available.”

Fifty-one birds were injected with the virus protein carried by an adjuvant designed to stimulate a strong immune response in the birds.

The Faculty of Agriculture will send eggs from the injected chickens to AffinityImmuno Inc., who will be harvesting the antibodies from the yolks.  The antibodies will be evaluated for a manufacturing effort toward the development of a simple-to-use diagnostic device to test for the virus as well as whether someone has been exposed and developed their own immunity.

“Antibodies against Covid 19 can be useful for a number of applications in the fight to control this disease,” explained Rathgeber. “So far we have given our birds two doses of the material and we are closely monitoring their health.”

There is no risk the chickens will become sick from the Covid 19 spike protein as it is only a virus protein and not the complete virus, additionally there is no evidence that this virus is active in birds.